Wellington: New Zealand and Australia pressed the Fiji military on 26 February to accept the need for a quick return to democratc rule, saying the political instability was damaging the region.
The only barrier to fresh elections was military coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said along with his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer.The two ministers said instability in the Pacific was high on the agenda of their regular six-monthly meeting.
Downer said a meeting of the Pacific foreign minsters, scheduled for Vanuatuon on 16 March, would discuss the recently completed report on Fiji by a regional eminent persons group.
“We will certainly be taking a common position in response to that report but would not publicise position right now,” Downer said.The report calls for democratic elections in Fiji within two years, Bainimarama to stand down as interim prime minister and soldiers to be recalled to barraks.
But the blueprint does not include a return to power for Laisenia Qarase, who was overthrown in the military coup last December amid accusations of corruption.
“It would be nice if the democratically elected government would be returned to office but I don’t want to stray into unreality in diplomacy. I think that is clearly not about to happen”, Downer said.
The Bainimarama coup was the fourth in Fiji in two decades, and Downer called for an end to the “habit” of overthrowing the government.